KAST’s lateral thinking optimised space in adjoining derelict barns to make a three-bedroom home for a young family that relates to its rural and historic setting
Who is the project for and what was the brief?
Kim and Rich Butler are private clients. They approached KAST to provide a home for their young family by breathing some new life into a collection of derelict barn buildings.
They wanted a low energy house that was full of light, connected to the outside and that respected the history and quality of the place.
Describe the project.
The barns are set in a secluded glade at the end of a long gravel track in rural Cornwall. They are part of a wider complex of barn buildings that the client hopes to convert over time. The Butlers also own the surrounding fields which will change hugely with extensive tree planting and re-wilding over the coming years.
Left to decay for generations, only the stone walls of the existing building could be retained. We have inserted a new highly insulated three-bedroom house within the existing walls and added an extension to the new garden elevation.
Was it hard to get planning?
Kim and Richard bought the barns with existing planning permission for conversion into houses.
The permission proposed no changes to the external elevations but made some significant structural alterations to the internal gables that would have been unnecessarily expensive and removed some of the most charming parts of the existing buildings.
The contemporary approach of our revised design initially met with some resistance from the planning department, but eventually they accepted that our approach of clearly distinguishing old from new was suitable.
Describe the external treatment of the project
Where possible the old stone walls have been left as they were found and all new parts of the building are clad in charred black timber boarding. The locally sourced larch was charred on site by the client, and its dark colour compliments the rubble stone walls and surrounding tree cover.
Where it fronts onto the original farmyard, the building retains its rustic agricultural feeling, while at the rear a contemporary flat-roofed extension connects the house with the garden. The extension is separated from the original barn by a structural glass link that touches the existing building lightly.
How have the interiors been designed?
Internally the material palette is simple and robust with exposed stone walls (where possible), polished concrete floors and plywood joinery.
Where new openings have been made in the old walls they are lined in plywood without quoins or lintels to distinguish them from the original openings.
The main kitchen dining space is book-ended by two exposed stone gable walls against which we've placed fitted plywood joinery containing the staircase and kitchen – they are intended to look and feel like pieces of free standing furniture. The bathrooms have matching plywood joinery and in time the client will add wardrobes, media units and other joinery in the same style.
Describe one challenge and how you overcame it
The two existing barns suggests a natural split in the accommodation with living spaces in the single storey barn so that they could be connected to the garden, and bedrooms in the two story element. Fitting three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a staircase into the two storey barn was a difficult task which we resolved by moving the staircase into the single storey barn. This freed up much-needed space for the bedrooms and necessitated raising the roof of the kitchen and dining barn – giving it very dramatic vertical proportions.
What is your favourite moment in the project?
The kitchen dining room has windows that are small and constrained by the existing openings in the barn, but the new roof turns it into a dramatic and generous light filled volume at the heart of the house.
In contrast, the living room extension has low ceiling and a wall of glazing that generously connects the house to the garden. Moving from one to the other really highlights the different qualities of light, volume and connection in each.
What would you do again next time? What wouldn’t you?
Since designing this building in 2017 we have redoubled our efforts to create measurably low carbon and sustainable places. Given the opportunity to design this again we would want to achieve the Passive House EnerPhit standard and would use more low carbon, natural materials in its construction.
Jessica Fairlie is an architectural assistant with Kast Architects
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Total contract cost £400,740
GIFA cost £2166/m2
Sustainability EPC B (82)
Architect Kast Architects